Haas went through tyres like "knife through butter" in Bahrain GP

Nico Hulkenberg says he went through his tyres like a “knife through butter” after his Haas Formula 1 car suffered front wing damage early in the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-23, Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT04, Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60

Hulkenberg was quick throughout practice on his full-time comeback, finishing the second practice session in an encouraging fifth place. Having made it through to Q3, he eventually qualified in 10th.

However he tumbled down to 14th on the first lap after a touch with the Alpine of Esteban Ocon, reporting to the team: “Possible some contact at the front, but I’m not sure.”

While the engineers were checking the data he added: “There was some sort of a knock, but it feels OK now.”

The team opted not to replace the nose at Hulkenberg’s first pitstop, but with his handling deteriorating and his tyres suffering, the nose was swapped at his second stop on lap 26. That gave the German a more competitive car for the final 30 laps, but by then he was out of contention for points.

He finished an unrepresentative 15th, having also picked up two track limits penalties that added 15 seconds to his race time but didn't impact his position.

“A tricky race, especially the first half,” said Hulkenberg. “Apparently I had some contact with someone on Turn 1 or Turn 2 on lap one, which I didn't even really notice.

“I was a bit squeezed in Turn 1. I was trying to avoid everyone, but apparently there was some contact and then consequently some damage which was very compromising to my race because I lost a lot of downforce. It's like going to a fight but without weapons!

“So that's a bit frustrating. I think I had quite a lot of stuff missing from the front wing and lost a lot of load with that - and grip of course.

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-23, in the pits

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-23, in the pits

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

“It made the first half of the race very, very tough. I was just going through my tyres like a hot knife through butter.

“I think in the middle of the race we decided there's no point continuing like that, so I pitted for a new front wing. Vicious circle then, lots of blue flags, it was just going backwards from there.”

Hulkenberg stressed the damage had compromised any lessons he might have learned from completing a race distance with the car.

“Tricky to say because the first half is so blurry for me now,” he said of how much he'd learned. “It was just a survival run, to be honest. And very difficult.

“I was running around with a damaged car, which had a lot less downforce than it should have had as a healthy car.

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“I was very relieved when we pitted it for the new front wing, and the car suddenly came back to being normal. But by then I had lost so much ground that it was tough to recover.

“So there was not much to learn from the first half, because that was not the real car. The second half of the race, I take my learnings from there. Which is for me, my feeling, my findings and emotions about that, and I'll process those, and regroup in two weeks.”

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